On Thursday I see a tweet from @FrenchChefWife that she has cancellations and therefore there are last minute reservations at the sold out pop up restaurant LudoBites 4.0. I was on my way. However, being a spontaneous decision and a Thursday night I would have to bring the whole family. I was a little nervous that even with Minty and Rémy’s fairly refined palates Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s food might be a little much but I was willing to give it a shot for another meal at LudoBites 4.0. This is the essence of fine dining for Ladles and Jellyspoons – giggling gourmands that don’t dumb down needed to dine at LudoBites. Mummy definitely does! Chef Ludo Lefebvre was recently called the Chef of the Future by Time and here I was bringing him the fine diners of the future.
As we drive downtown I explain to the children a little about what to expect:
Me: “Chef Ludo is French.” Minty: “Will there be steak haché?” Me: “No, but he cooks the best steak.”
Rémy: “Will there be escargot?” Me: “I think so.” Minty: “I don’t eat snails. Ever.” Me: “You used to.” Minty: “Ew! Yuk!”
It’s French food with a twist and Chef Ludo changes the menu all the time so I couldn’t guarantee what would be on the menu – even though we had eaten there less than a week ago.
Me: “There’s great baguette with honey lavender butter.” Minty: “I don’t like lavender butter, I only like lavender ice cream.” Me: “There’s also smoked butter [which is actually smoked lard but I thought this would put her off].”
As we approach the skyscrappers downtown I was beginning to feel that this may have been a mistake. What was I thinking bringing the kids to a pop-up restaurant where last week’s highlight had been foie gras ‘cocaine’?
Minty: “Are we nearly there yet?” Rémy: “I’m starving!”
Dinner is in full swing as we walk in. The room looks so pretty with twinkling candles and Ludo’s artwork, including Happy Chef, lining the red brick walls. Rémy is instantly drawn to the glass enclosed kitchen, fascinated to see what Chef and his kitchen crew are up to cooking and plating food.
This incarnation of LudoBites definitely suits the concept in terms of location – to see Ludo hard at work in the kitchen at the center of the restaurant pulls everything together. He seems happier, more relaxed. The menu reflects this, it’s less fussy and more classically French, yet still playful and full of surprises. There’s still his signature foie gras black croque monsieur – just un peux self indulgent, n’est pas? It’s worth every flavorful mouthful and the best thing on the menu according to my foie gras loving friends. He’s still having fun and pushing the boundaries of his cuisine but here you have a perfectly cooked piece of lamb or steak taking center stage. In fact the meat is so perfectly cooked I’m inclined to feel it doesn’t need all the extras like eel, chevre and bonito – well perhaps the decadent buttery potatoes.
“Need potatoes with your butter Lucy?” Krissy asked as I licked the plate and asked for more at LudoBites 3.0.
We order bread and both children tuck in to the smoked lard and pass on the lavender butter, having picked up the metal dish and given it a quick sniff. Minty calls it smoked butter as she spreads it on a piece of bread and I don’t correct her. Who needs semantics to put you off your food?
For appetizers we order the seabream ceviche, the scallops with spinach and yogurt curry and the marinated King Salmon. Minty lights up when she sees the beautiful bowl of scallops swimming in a yellow broth, topped with a pansy flower arrive at the table.
“Oh how pretty,” says Minty. Krissy overhears her and says she will be sure to tell the chef.
Everyone tries everything and if they don’t like something they move on to the next item. Minty prefers the ceviche to the scallops. Both children are intrigued by the delicate white cilantro flowers that top the scallop dish. Rémy takes a bite, shudders and then hands the half eaten flowers to me. He tucks in to a fat juicy scallop. Within minutes Minty has eaten up all the citrusy fish, heirloom tomatoes and meyer lemon paste – all that is left are four slim circles of jalapenos and some red onion. She’s also pretty keen on the smoked salmon which she and papa fight over for the last bite.
For our entrées the boys each have the lamb although Chef has prepared Rémy’s sans bonito. Rémy likes the fact that the meat has a bone in it but doesn’t like the look of the green mint sauce. He gobbles up the pink pieces of meat and generously shares his potato mouselline with me. He picks up the artichoke and enjoys swinging it around until he’s reminded of his manners.
Minty has the bavette. I don’t tell her the steak is topped with escargot and she doesn’t ask. I presume she thinks they are dark mushrooms. I have the white asparagus with the foie gras powder which intrigues hubby who I make guess what it is – first without trying “Powdered sugar, an airy cheese dairy thing?” and then after tasting “Oh that’s delicious, it’s like foie gras.”
“Mama,” says Minty.”I ate too much of the appetizer and now I’m too full to eat the entrée.” The richness of the bavette and escargot means that two or three bites in Minty has had enough.
That said, Chef Ludo comes over to our table and says that he will bring some desserts and appetites reappear faster than formula one cars at the Monaco Grand Prix. A plate of pink macarons, Chantilly cream and strawberries bring happy smiles. The children help themselves to large spoonsfuls and discover a surprise in their mouths. The dessert contains pop rocks that burst on our tongues. Needless to say when the chocolate souffle arrives the children ask Krissy for more pop rocks. A huge hit. They then get creative and use the pop rocks she gives them in the chocolate souffle and saffron ice cream. Within minutes everything has disappeared.
This photo reminds me of the LA Times food paparazzi article recently about diners spending so much time photographing their food they don’t get to eat it:
Driving home I ask Minty how @MissFoodDude rates LudoBites 4.0 – “Five stars,” says a sleepy voice. “Especially the pop rocks and the fish. When can we go back?”
LudoBites 4.0 is sold out but Krissy Lefevbre will tweet if she has had cancellations, this is how we managed to snag this ressy, so make sure you are following her on twitter @FrenchChefWife and sign up for the Ludobites Newsletter to be the first to know about LudoBites 5.0.